Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Biden OK’s Increased Ethanol For Summer Gasoline

Washington, D.C.—Hoping to offer a more affordable option to Americans at the pump, President Joe Biden announced plans for an emergency waiver to allow E15 gasoline, a cheaper blend of fuel that uses more ethanol, to be sold during the upcoming summer months.

Biden told a Menlo, Iowa, audience that using E15 could not only save motorists an average of 10 cents per gallon compared to E10 but also boost supplies and reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign fuels.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is expected to issue the emergency waiver closer to June 1, is also considering additional action on year-round use of E15.

Conceding the number of filing stations that sell E15 remains limited, the president said $100 million is being invested to build biofuels infrastructure to ensure market opportunities will be available.

A White House fact sheet listed other steps the Biden administration is taking, such as providing up to $700 billion through a new program to support agricultural producers who rely on biofuels producers as a market for their products.

‘Important Stuff’

President Biden also took time while in Iowa to school his audience about the importance of the billions being invested in the nation’s ports and waterways.

As an example, Biden singled out the more than $700 million for the Lock and Dam Project 25 on the Mississippi River.

“And you say, ‘What does that have to do with me?’” he said.

“It has a lot to do with you all. Because nearly every bushel of soybeans and corn that is transported on that river from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin goes through these locks. And they were built in 1930—1930s.”

Barges often need to split into smaller groups to make it through, taking hours and sometimes longer, the president said.

“With new, modern locks, we’re going to help farmers get their products to market faster and more efficiently, lower costs and keep American agriculture globally competitive,” Biden said.

“This is important stuff.”

Clean Water Act

A 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court at least temporarily revived a controversial Trump-era water rule that curbs states’ authority to block projects, including those of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Now under President Biden, the Environmental Protection Agency said it was reviewing the court order but would continue to move forward with a rulemaking announced last year to restore state and tribal authority to protect water resources essential to public health, ecosystems and economic opportunity.

“Strong partnership between state, tribal, local and federal partners is crucial to protect clean water and advance sustainable economic development and vibrant communities,” said Tim Carroll, EPA’s deputy press secretary.

Prior to the Trump-era rule, several states had been accused of abusing the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification process to block energy projects such as coal exports.

Reaction to the court’s so-called shadow docket ruling, which did not require an explanation, was immediate and broke along party lines with Republicans welcoming the court’s action and Democrats condemning it.

Supply Chain Tracker

The Department of Transportation (DOT) said its latest Transportation Supply Chain Indicators Tracker shows progress in goods movement even as challenges continue.

That progress, DOT said, builds on actions taken by it and the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to move ports toward 24/7 operations, improve the trucking workforce and speed the movement of goods by rail and other modes.

America’s ports—including the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach collectively—imported more containers than any previous January, the total number of container ships waiting for berths at U.S. ports has dropped by 35 percent since peaking in early February, and freight railroads’ weekly intermodal movements in March approached their highest levels of 2022.

“Goods are successfully being delivered to shelves, and real retail inventories excluding autos are at their highest levels in history and 6 percent above pre-pandemic levels,” DOT stated.

Challenges including COVID-19 outbreaks across Asia, and Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine could impact supply chains in the U.S., the agency reported.

Merchant Personnel Committee

The National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet May 3 via teleconference to discuss issues relating to merchant marine personnel including training, qualifications, certification, documentation and fitness of mariners.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m. EDT.

Teleconference lines will be limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Comments may be submitted at any time, including orally during the meeting, but to ensure comments are received prior to the meeting, they should be submitted by April 19.

For additional information and to request special accommodations, contact Megan Johns Henry by 1 p.m. April 19 at 202-372-1255.

Shipper Advisory Committee

The National Shipper Advisory Committee (NSAC) is scheduled to meet April 27 in person at the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) with a live stream of the session at www.fmc.gov.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 1 p.m. Eastern at the FMC Hearing Room, First Floor, 800 N. Capitol St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20573.

Requests to register to attend the meeting in person should be submitted by 5 p.m. Eastern April 22 to nsac@fmc.gov.

Seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for those who register in advance of the deadline.

Established by a 2021 law, the NSAC provides information and expertise to the FMC on the ocean freight delivery system.

For additional information, concerns or assistance, contact secretary@fmc.gov or Dylan Richmond at 202-523-5810.

STB Hearing On Freight Rail

The Surface Transportation Board is scheduled to hold a hearing April 26-27 on “urgent issues” in freight rail service.

Open for public observation, the meeting is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. each day at the board’s headquarters, 395 E. Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20423-0001, with sessions available for viewing at www.stb.gov.

The board is expected to direct officials of BNSF Railway Company, CSX Transportation Inc., Norfolk Southern Railway Company and Union Pacific Railroad Company to appear to discuss recent rail service problems, efforts to improve service and estimated timeline for recovery of normal service levels.

 The board also is expected to provide other carriers, rail customers, labor organizations and other interested parties the opportunity to report on recent service issues and recovery efforts.

Any person wishing to speak at the hearing should file a notice of intent no later than April 14.

Submission of written testimony by participants is optional but may be submitted by April 22.

For additional information, contact Nathaniel Bawcombe at 202-245-0376 or 800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired.

DHS Port Regulatory Changes

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is accepting comments on proposed regulatory changes to procedures on debarring vessels from entering U.S. ports due to longshore work performed by nonimmigrant crew members.

Comments must be received by June 13 via the federal portal at www.regulations.gov.

For additional information, contact R. Joseph O’Donnell, Jr., at 202-344-1691.

Civil Penalties

A final rule has been published to provide for adjustments to civil penalties for violations of certain regulations of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

In addition, the new rule also noted new DOT civil penalties authority provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for violations related to newly manufactured freight cars.

Other agencies impacted by the new rule include the Maritime Administration and the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

The rule took effect March 21.

For additional information, contact Elizabeth Kohl at 202-366-7253.